Glenn Walker On… Mothra

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Each week, one of Biff Bam Pop’s illustrious writers will delve into one of their favorite things. Perhaps it’s a movie or album they’ve carried with them for years. Maybe it’s something new that moved them and they think might move you too. Each week, a new subject, a new voice writing on… something they love.

I’ll be talking about my love of Mothra. Folks who know me know I love my giant monsters. I am a huge kaiju eiga fan, but Mothra is my fave, find out why after the jump.

Comparing Stats

Some might think it’s sacrilege to love Godzilla so much and yet my favorite monster is Mothra. I had to think about that for a moment – why? The number one reason is that she’s better. That’s right, I said it. And not better as in nyah nyah my monster is better than yours, but in a more physical way. She’s got size on her side as she is much bigger than the sometimes-disputed king of the monsters. In full wingspan Mothra practically dwarfs the Big G, and depending on the movie appearance, just her body is the same size as Godzilla. This is one big kaiju.

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There is also the varied range of powers Mothra has at her disposal. There is the obvious, flight, in her imago form, and her wings can also be used as an offensive weapon, generating hurricane strength winds. Mothra in her larval form she can project a silky web-like substance, which on several occasions has disabled Godzilla and once completely defeated him. And then there is the red powder, ‘her final weapon,’ a poison pollen. Later versions of Mothra even had beam weapons, armored and underwater forms. All this, against Godzilla’s size, strength, and radioactive breath.

Versus Godzilla

I have made no secret that Mothra vs. Godzilla is one of my favorite films, probably top five easily. Also known as Godzilla vs. the Thing (the Thing to cash in on the success of 1951’s The Thing from Another World) when it was first released in this country, and Mosura tai Gojira in Japan, the film pits the giant moth against the Big G in a morality play full of complicated decisions. Should Mothra stop Godzilla from destroying Japan after Japan irradiated her island and is holding her egg hostage? In the end, Mothra, always a force for good, does the right thing and fights.

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The film features the last real use of Godzilla as a villain, and the most sinister and menacing G-suit of the showa era (it’s the eyebrows!). The two monsters battle over the gigantic egg, Godzilla looking like he’s going to make a meal of it, Mothra using the last of her energy to get Godzilla away before dying, with one wing protectively covering her unborn offspring. Yeah, I cried (and cry each time I watch) when Mothra died. This flick should really be on a list of Mother’s day movies.

Little Larvae

And then the amazing thing happens. The egg hatches, and out comes not one, but two larvae. They are twins, much like the Shobijin, the tiny fairy girls who communicate with Mothra, and together they set off to finish what their mother had started – defending Japan from Godzilla. Notably, these larvae are male, as most other iterations of the kaiju are female. They are single-minded, and chase after Godzilla who has trapped school children on a remote island. The distraction of these two new opponents allow those children to escape.

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Smaller, stealthier, and a determined, the larvae begin to circle the big monster and hit him with their silky discharge. It should be mentioned that the larvae share Mothra’s consciousness, and know what must be done, and also the monster’s weaknesses as well. He is big, lumbering, and easily angered, and when he’s mad, he gets sloppy. Soon Godzilla is fully encased in the larval silk, stumbling around aimlessly, and falls off a cliff into the swirling waters below. Godzilla is vanquished. Mothra has done what neither King Kong nor King Ghidorah could do. Yeah, that’s me cheering, and the tears are gone.

The Goddess and The Twins

Mothra is not just any daikaiju either. As you might surmise from the above, she has her own island, and her worshippers – she is a goddess. Unlike other kaiju who have been worshipped as gods because of their size or ferocity, Mothra is a goddess. When she strikes, she strikes for the inhabitants of Infant Island, an island ravaged by atomic tests from the outside world. It is left nebulous as to whether Mothra and her Twins are products of radiation or if they came first.

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The Twins, the Shobijin, also known as the fairies, are Mothra’s priestesses. Only they can communicate with the goddess, and they are her line back to her people. Every great Mothra film has those sequences where the people are praying to Mothra in song. I love this song. Performed originally by the Peanuts, who first played the fairies, it is called simply “Mothra’s Song.” It has been remade multiple times, including dance mixes and metal versions – in any form, it rocks… and summons Mothra.

Later Versions

Mothra returned to battle Godzilla in the heisei era, this time with an evil twin, Battra, and a new mission as protector of the earth. In a trilogy of films aimed at children, Mothra became more of a ecological superhero, a daikaiju Captain Planet, facing monsters threatening the ecology of our world, including a mutated King Ghidorah. These movies, though clearly family oriented, were works of dazzling special effects and vivid color, a joy to watch.

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In any form, I love Mothra, she rocks, and she continues to appear in Toho films even today, currently with a dozen under her belt, and a promised appearance in Gareth Edwards’ Godzilla sequel. I’ll close with her song, or at least the English translation of it. Enjoy…

Mothra O Mothra
If we were to call for help
Over time
Over sea
Like a wave you’d come
Our guardian angel

Mothra O Mothra
Of forgotten kindness
And ruined spirits
We pray for the people’s
Spirit as we sing
This song of love.

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